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Isolation leaves women vulnerable to abusers who may feel emboldened by a lack of witnesses (Feldblum and Lipnic 2016).reported in 2015 that ABM (described as the largest employer of janitors) had 42 lawsuits brought against it in the previous two decades for allegations of workplace sexual harassment, assault, or rape (Yeung 2015).Sexual harassment and assault at work have serious implications for women and for their employers. Between 20, women made eight in ten sexual harassment charges to the EEOC; 20 percent were made by men (Frye 2017).
Through a review of the current literature on sexual harassment and assault, this briefing paper highlights how workplace sexual harassment and assault affect women’s economic advancement and security, and the costs of these harms to employers (including estimates of financial losses where available). Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines sexual assault as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent” (U. In 2015 the EEOC convened a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to better understand why harassment persists in so many workplaces and what can help prevent it.
It also provides recommendations for preventing sexual harassment and reducing the negative effects of harassment for individuals and workplaces. The Select Task Force looked not only at harassment that met the legal definition, but also at conduct and behavior that “may set the stage for unlawful harassment.” Identifying work-related factors associated with increased risk of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace may help target efforts to eliminate sexual harassment in particular occupations and situations. Workers in “accommodation and food services”—which includes wait staff and hotel housekeepers who are typically classified as “tipped”—account for 14 percent of harassment charges to the EEOC, which is substantially higher than the sector’s share of total employment (Frye 2017).
A survey by the Restaurant Opportunities Center finds that women restaurant workers who rely on tips for their main source of income in states where the sub-minimum wage is $2.13 are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment—from managers, co-workers, and customers—as women servers in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers.
The survey also found that many women employees continue to work in tipped jobs in spite of harassment because tips are an important part of their income (Rodriguez and Reyes 2014). Many workers—such as female janitors, domestic care workers, hotel workers, and agricultural workers, who often work in isolated spaces—report higher than average rates of sexual harassment and assault (Fernández Campbell 2018; Yeung and Rubenstein 2013; Yeung 2015).
• Reduced opportunities for on-the-job learning and advancement.
In many occupations, becoming a skilled worker and advancing in one’s profession depends on on-the-job instruction and mentorship of more experienced workers.
In addition, sexual harassment may limit or discourage women from advancing into higher paid careers and may contribute to the persistent gender wage gap. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) states that “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” (U. Case law has established that to meet the legal standards for action, workplace harassment must be “severe or pervasive” and affect working conditions (U. Research suggests that only a small number of those who experience harassment (one in ten) ever formally report incidents of harassment—let alone make a charge to the EEOC—because of lack of accessible complaints processes, simple embarrassment, or fear of retaliation (Cortina and Berdahl 2008).
It may also intersect with other forms of discrimination and harassment on the basis of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or disability. While sexual assault is a criminal offense, the law also recognizes sexual harassment as a form of employment discrimination. This fear is justified: according to an analysis of EEOC data, 71 percent of charges in FY 2017 included a charge of retaliation (Frye 2017).
Undocumented workers or those on temporary work visas can be at particular risk of harassment and assault. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.
Agriculture, food processing and garment factories, and domestic work and janitorial services are fields where many undocumented and immigrant women work (Bauer and Ramirez 2010; Hegewisch, Deitch, and Murphy 2011; Yeung and Rubenstein 2013; Yeung 2015). The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.